Alchemy is an ancient artform that is often associated with the failed attempt of transforming lead into gold, as well as the search for the fabled philosopher’s stone, elixir of life and holy grail.
As a tidbit of history, modern chemistry (and thus science as a whole) has its roots firmly planted in the practices of medieval alchemy. The vast majority of modern chemistry apparatus, such as the distillery, were invented by clandestine alchemists who holed themselves up in their underground laboratories to carry out their secret experiments (for fear of church persecution). These people were not stupid, and there is an immense amount of wisdom to be gained from their legacy for those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
There’s a heck of a lot of nonsense out there regarding the true nature of the alchemists and alchemy as a whole. A bit of research will reveal that the alchemical arts are highly coded with an endless number of interpretations and misdirections. It’s easy to get lost in all the symbolism, philosophies and schools of thought regarding alchemy.
One thing that persists is the idea of turning lead into gold.
Alchemy is the art of transformation.
Many alchemists took this quite literally, and invested their lives foolishly trying to turn literal lead into literal gold, often poisoning or blowing themselves up in the process. Medieval chemistry was no joke!
Those alchemists who were preoccupied with the search for an endless supply of gold were called “puffers”, as they would find ways to fan the fires of their burners to create extraordinary levels of heat to melt down metals and attempt their transmutation. Also, because they were full of hot air!
They were charlatans; utter fools who were preoccupied with the vain search for fool’s gold. Many of them got crafty and found ways to fake their success, beguiling those around them by creating fantastic spectacles of their fake alchemical “powers”. In some cases they would be hired by the monarchy and given a license to practice, as the monarchy well understood that those who control the money control the world, so if anyone was going to crack the gold-making code, it better be them!
This is a primary reason why alchemy was illegal – if someone were indeed to find a way to generate their own gold, they would eventually be out of control and could collapse the monarchy. The Federal Reserve must be run by alchemists, because they sure figured out the money-printing secret!
The other reason alchemy was illegal is because it was a religious heresy, punishable by death. This danger is the reason alchemy and other esoteric subjects were so heavily coded – and the reason secret societies ever became secret – to circumvent the church and the monarchy. We can always count on power elites and religious fanatics to do the right thing, huh?
The initiates of the alchemical mysteries understood that the idea of turning lead into gold is a metaphor for The Great Work.
The transformation of lead into gold is a metaphor for perfection – turning something base into something noble.
Those alchemists that were of a base nature themselves were the ones that toiled away in vain, lost in the literal interpretation of the art, hopelessly chasing the promise of vast wealth. They missed the point entirely. The ironry is that even if they succeeded, they were still fools!
The true subject of alchemy is not precious metals; it’s people. (Which are far more precious than any “precious” metals)
The alchemical transformation of lead into gold is the transformation of base humanity into higher humanity. It is not a physical art at all, but rather a metaphysical, or more accurately, a psychological art.
The true alchemists were philosophers who were preoccupied with the task of evolving humanity out of unconsciousness into consciousness. Of transforming ape into angel.
They were interested in not only the perfection of themselves, but in the perfection of society. They wanted to transform low culture into high culture. This was the essence of the Enlightenment period.
Consider what it was like back in the middle ages – the world was a dark place indeed. The alchemists and philosophers were those who had a profound vision of a better world, and recognized that elevating consciousness was the key to getting there.
To this day, the world remains vastly unconscious. We are directed by unconscious forces, drives and desires. Those who have learned to manipulate those forces for their own ends (sorcerers and black magicians) are the ones who rule the world. Their game is to keep the collective unconscious unconscious, because as soon as the collective unconscious becomes conscious, their game is over. That’s when the people wake up and become the directors of their own lives.
Consumerism relies on unconsciousness to continue, and thus is it not in the game of raising consciousness.
Psychologist Carl Jung famously said:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
This couldn’t be more true.
In truth, the Great Work does not concern metals, but humans.